And The Winner Is…

Best Director

Up In The Air

THE HURT LOCKER

Inglorious Basterds

Precious

Avatar

The race for Best Director is an unlikely venue for a post-marital spat, but every other nominee gets shoved aside for a duel between Kathryn Bigelow and ex-husband James Cameron. The latter eschewed storyline in favor of spectacle: His actors looked stellar in 3D, but their interactions were laughable. Meanwhile, Bigelow — first female to even come close to this auspicious award — handled her cast with aplomb while maintaining a stunning visual element. Let’s hope she comes out on top: Beating out her pretentious ex would be one giant step for bitter divorcees everywhere.

— Rebecca Erbe

Staff Writer

Best Supporting Actress

Maggie Gyllenhall

Penelope Cruz

Mo’nique

VERA FARMIGA

Anna Kendrick

Vera Farmiga’s portrayal of ballsy temptress Alex Goran in “Up in the Air” is sure to earn her the Oscar that “The Departed” failed to deliver. As the female version of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), Farmiga trades witty banter while lending the film some much-needed eye candy (sorry Anna Kendrick). Newcomer Mo’Nique has justly earned the accolades until now, but the Academy often praises consistency over one-time performances. The Academy rewards box-office success. How else would Sandra Bullock have made the Best Actress shortlist?

— Neda Salamat

Staff Writer

Best Actor

George Clooney

JEFF BRIDGES

Colin Firth

Morgan Freeman

Jeremy Renner

This awards season, Jeff Bridges has been snatching up wins at show after show for his portrayal of washed-up country singer Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart.” There’s no reason the Academy won’t take a hint, especially considering the Dude has never scored an Oscar before. Though George Clooney’s flawless performance in “Up in the Air” as a charming corporate hitman couldn’t have been more fitting in this economic rut, it wasn’t complex enough for a little gold man. Until Clooney sucks it up and takes on a more nuanced character, my money’s on Bridges.

— Arielle Sallai

Staff Writer

Best Actress

Meryl Streep

Carey Mulligan

SANDRA BULLOCK

Helen Mirren

Gabourey Sibide

With a Golden Globe under her belt, Sandra Bullock will likely snag a statue for her role as a Southern yuppie in “The Blind Side.” Bullock’s stiffest competition comes from Meryl Streep, whose rendition of Julia Child in the semi-biopic “Julie & Julia” will rake in brownie points. But with dead-on “Bon appetit!” chortles, Amy Adams’ takes too much screentime from Streep. So, whether her commercial allure merits it, Miss Congeniality is slated to snag her first Oscar this season, making for a far more entertaining acceptance speech than pageant kitsch.

— Leila Haghighat

Staff Writer

Best Supporting Actor

Matt Damon

CHRISTOPH WALTZ

Woody Harrelson

Christopher Plummer

Stanley Tucci

It’s nice to see underdog “Inglourious Basterds” boasting a multifaceted actor in its blood-spattered holster. Christoph Waltz’s multilingual performance in Tarantino’s gorefest might as well be the only one up for nomination. Abhorrently amiable, Waltz’s silky portrayal of Jew-hating, American-butchering Col. Hans Landa is effortless and clean, bargaining, murdering and sipping on milk with remarkable efficiency in the European countryside. Opposite an asinine American hick (Brad Pitt), Waltz’s humanistic Landa stirs a moral crisis when it hits us that this charmer is a Nazi.

— Neda Salamat

Staff Writer

Best Feature

The Hurt Locker

Up

A Serious Man

Precious

Inglorious Basterds

District 9

The Blind Side

AVATAR

An Education

Up in the Air

Let’s put an end to the debate: Despite the fuss about “Inglourious Basterds,” James Cameron will be victorious. Tarantino’s entry is too eccentric, and everything else is a step back in vision; “Avatar” packs the effects and innovations to change filmmaking forever. The only legit argument against Cameron’s baby is that the plot is unoriginal — but a better word is archetypal, because it’s a foundation myth for a future legacy of 3D film. “Avatar” will win for the same reason the Saints beat the Colts: When history powers a symbol, not even a Manning or a Tarantino can stop it.

— Bryan Kim

Staff Writer

Best Animated Film

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Princess & The Frog

Coraline

UP

The Secret of Kells

Since the Pixar powerhouse out-foxed its competitors at earlier award shows, an Oscar win isn’t only probable, but imminent. Director Pete Docter’s latest boasts the colorful characters, vivid animation and hum-worthy score we’ve come to expect from the Disney-owned studio that brought us talking bugs, fish and cars. Even if this one features humans (don’t fret, there’s a crapload of chatty dogs), “Up” is the first Pixar film — if not the first children’s film — to discuss adult issues while remaining playful. Sorry Wes Anderson, looks like this one is going to the dogs.

— Neda Salamat

Staff Writer

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